Connecticut Cord Blood Bank May Become Reality

March 1, 2011

Hartford CT, – The General Assembly’s Public Health Committee co-chairmen, Rep. Betsy Ritter (D-Waterford/Montville), and Sen. Jason Perillo (R-Shelton) along with Sen. Len Fasano (R- Wallingford/North Haven/East Haven) and members of the Cord Blood Taskforce today announced the Connecticut Cord Blood Bank is on its way to becoming a reality.

“It gives me great satisfaction when I see a new medical development evolving. It is a sign of hope to all of us, our children and our future generations,” Rep. Ritter stated. “Anything we can do within our reach to bring alternative medical resources to people and their families is a step forward in our commitment to a healthier Connecticut.”

“We are on the verge of making critical life-saving procedures more widely available through the Cord Blood Bank,” said Rep. Jason Perillo, Ranking Member of the Public Health Committee and former Chief of Shelton’s Echo Hose Ambulance Company. “This has the potential to offer some important options to those who are suffering from some of the most serious and debilitating diseases. This Bank represents real hope for their treatment.”

During the 2009 legislative session the Public Health Committee championed legislation requiring doctors to inform pregnant women about their cord blood banking options. This year, with the help of Senate Minority Leader Pro-Tempore Len Fasano, the group has put forward legislation making a public cord blood bank program available to families in Connecticut. If approved this would be the first public cord blood bank in the state.

“A public cord blood bank is an invaluable health resource for the people of Connecticut,” said Sen. Fasano. “Expanding access to this important medical development is critical to so many families who are looking for answers as to how a loved one’s life can be saved.”

Cord blood is the blood that remains in your baby’s umbilical cord after the cord has been cut. Doctors have discovered that cord blood, like bone marrow, is a rich source of unique stem cells that can be used in medical treatments. Stem cells are the body’s “master” cells and can become any type of cell in the human body.

Cord blood banking is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for parents to collect and preserve the stem cells from their baby’s umbilical cord blood for potential medical uses. A newborn child’s umbilical cord is rich with unique cells, similar to those found in bone marrow.

These stem cells have been successfully used to treat a growing number of diseases and conditions – from leukemia and other cancers to sickle cell disease and multiple sclerosis. There is also emerging research which indicates that these cells have the potential to effectively treat brain injury, cerebral palsy, heart disease and Type 1 diabetes. If you do not bank your baby’s cord blood, it is discarded after birth.

“This is all about people helping people. These Legislators are crafting a bill to help people and give them options that will ultimately help their own family, fellow residents of this state or others from around the nation, “said Winston A. Campbell, M.D., UConn Health Center John Dempsey Hospital.

Right now, according to the Cord Blood Registry, Connecticut is one of only 17 states in the country to have implemented legislation promoting education and awareness on the benefits of cord blood banking as recommended by the Institutes of Medicine.

“There is a statewide and nationwide crisis with respect to availability and ready access to bone marrow stem cells, particularly among African Americans and other minority patients. As a state it is critical that we focus our attention on building a public umbilical cord blood bank in order to provide potentially life-saving treatment options for those who need them the most,” said Dr. Charles Lockwood, Yale University School of Medicine.

The public cord blood bank would open doors for so many patients looking for a donor match. A successful match can help provide people diagnosed with disease the opportunity to have a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Many families are unaware that they have the option to donate the cord blood free of charge, rather than allow it to be discarded. The option gave the Mitchell family of Cheshire hope.

“The only reason we became aware that donating umbilical cord blood was an option, was because Kacey needed a transplant, but did not have an eligible match in the entire national bone marrow registry,” said Kristina Mitchell. “As an alternative, her doctors searched for stem cells stored in public cord blood banks. Receiving a stem cell transplant was the only option to cure Kacey’s rare form of pediatric cancer.”

Though 2- year old Kacey Rose Mitchell was able to receive a transplant using umbilical cord blood cells donated to a public bank, her pediatric cancer was extremely aggressive and she passed before turning 3 years of age. Through Kasey’s journey the Mitchells realized all families deserve to have every option available to them and having a public cord blood bank simply makes sense.

Kristina Mitchell said, “We implore all of you to embrace this unique humanitarian opportunity to become ‘part of the solution’ in saving lives in the near future and for generations to come.”

Through an independent board and a combination of public and private donations, along with a partnership between Yale-New Haven Hospital and University of Connecticut Health Center John Dempsey Hospital, a Connecticut cord blood bank is on its way to becoming a reality.

The bill # 152 is now before the Public Health Committee.